One of my favorite aspects of our "gotta have it now!" society is how quickly TV shows come to DVD. Instead of waiting for some of your favorite episodes to make the rerun rounds or worse, try to catch it in the DVD cycle.
This fall, I'll be watching the DVD of the second season of "Happy Endings," amazed at how fast 22 minutes can fly by and thinking "yep, I can watch another episode." Yet there is bound to be an episode that will make me especially grateful for the DVD. So I can skip it. "Meet the Parrots," would be this season's on-to-the-next-one episode.
They can't all be gems
The writers tried to overstuff a less-than-30-minute window with too much B-level stunt casting and wacky happenings even for a sitcom. Yet they had the perfect setup to carry the whole episode off one underdeveloped subplot.
Continuing last week's theme of mixing and matching some not-as-developed pairings between the six leads, this episode expands on that idea by splitting them into trios. This week's grouping are Dave, Penny and Jane and Alex, Max and Brad. Guess which group has the better subplot?
Dave's excited about his dad, Big Dave (Michael McKean) coming up to visit him, but gets a shock when he brings along his new girlfriend, Penny's mom, Dana ("Will & Grace's" Megan Mullally). Penny's ecstatic that she finally has the sibling she always wanted in Dave, which seems like a silly sitcom subplot since Big Dave and Dana are just dating, not engaged. For the rest of the episode, Penny does dumb sibling stuff like giving Dave wet willies and wedgies (sorry Dave isn't wearing underwear there, Pen…) making for some forced and awkward scenes that never are as funny as the writers intended.
Dana has helped bring about some changes in Big Dave that Lil' Dave doesn't appreciate — like becoming a vegetarian and not caring as much about their beloved Cubs as he used to — so Dave decides to go to his childhood home (now inhabited by a new family) and staying there until Penny and Jane persuade him to accept that his parents are likely not getting back together.
This all would have played out better with Dave and his dad reaching this conclusion before bringing in Penny's mom, as there was so much time spent on parent dynamics (Penny and Dana sing out their problems instead of yelling) that Jane is lost in the tagalong role. And it seemed criminal to have Mullally in an episode that underutilized her when she could have had one all to herself. Toss in anEd Begley Jr.cameo that would have worked better in a not-so-crowded episode, and this was one of the least enjoyable subplots of the season.
Things start off promising with the gang playing a game of "Celebrity," kinda like Taboo, but the only category is famous folks, like Ben from "The Bachelor." And, seriously, can't he figure out that Blakely just wants to win the competition, not his heart???Geesh. I'll let Sarah and Chris go into that further, but c'mon Ben!
Anyhow, this was my second-favorite scene of the show, as it's something that anyone who's played a Taboo/charades type game against a couple/longtime friends/family members can relate to. Completely unrelated phrases or one-word answers can trigger a psychic-like correct response from the teammate. It's incredibly frustrating playing against that kind of team, but watching Jane and Alex destroy the boys while Penny awaits a clue she knows was hilarious. These are the bits that show does well. Taking the familiar elements from the lives of late 20- to 30-somethings and showing how crazy it is for all to see.
As the gang heads out, Alex tries to persuade them to stay with the unfortunately phrased "If you're not gonna stay and play with me, I'm gonna play with myself," which oddly almost makes Max stay, as well as Brad. It was especially weird that Alex's brother-in-law considered staying for the show while his wife is there.
With her friends gone and no one to talk to at work, Alex pursues the obvious best option — she gets a parrot. Not just any one though. She manages to get a homophobic racist parrot, who spouts off gems like "white power" and "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." This of course doesn't sit well with Brad and Max as Alex ponders why this bird she got from A.Ryan420 is so racist. Alex's completely clueless nature makes her such an unpredictable character, and with every insane saying, I come to loathe Kim Bauer a little less.
For the eventual "Happy Endings" trivia game for all you fans out there, make a note that Brad shares a birth date with Hitler and Carmen Electra. I'm not sure what was more amusing, that Brad knew that or that he gave a shoutout to his fellow Tauruses?
Alex trying to get rid of this racist bird would have worked just fine as the main theme for the week, but the writers must not have thought they had enough with that goldmine. They have Alex getting suspicious of the nearby Chinese restaurant, convinced the owners are up to no good. After staking out the place for a bit, Brad and Max are positive the owners are running a massage parlor once they see a group of girls enter. I’ve gotta admit I was a bit disappointed they didn’t go with the obvious happy ending joke the one time it would have been appropriate.
But the members of the gang show they're not private investigators for a reason, as they crash the back room only to learn that instead of some deviant dealings, the girls are learning English as a second language. Not a bad payoff, but I think the parrot ending up a special at the restaurant could have made for a better ending.
This was an episode that had too much going on for its own good. With a lot less, everything it could have been a contender. As is, you didn't miss much on this one.